A Glimpse of Ravindra Sharma's world and work

Kala Ashram

At home, in his Kala Ashram, a refuge he created more than three decades ago for local practitioners, Guruji receives a constant stream of visitors of great diversity, ranging from bards and minstrels who come to store their scroll painting during their off season, to modern philosophers, architects and technologists who come to brainstorm and rejuvenate their minds. In his kitchen, potters and philosophers, bards and classical musicians, modern technologists and traditional metal casters sit down together for a humble meal and a chat. Most take back a sense of belonging if not anything else, but after all, is that not what our search for an understanding of India is all about, how to belong and relate to each other as one society?

The Traditional Technologists

Guruji's position is that the artisan's work whether it is with metal, mud, wood or fibre is as much a technological process as a creative one. These technologies were at the centre of social life in India as the home was the production unit. In modern times, the outside world has marginalised these communities as handicraft makers. The overall reduction in rural prosperity has also meant declining local markets. As a result, these communities are on the verge of destitution. One of the communities that Guruji has been consistently engaging with for the last 3 decades are the brass casting people or the Ojha of Adilabad. The Ojha are a typical example of gradual social degeneration not merely in terms of material prosperity, but also in areas such as education. It is not rare to find a literate and educated grandfather and an illiterate grandson in this community. After many decades of near poverty and several attempts by NGO's and Government to empower them, now this community has by themselves recaptured the village market and their lost status and are gainfully occupied, once again, in a patronage relationship with local communities.

The workshop at Kala Ashram

The Kala Ashram has been built in such a manner that its artisan living quarters and workshop can be converted to suit any community that arrives there to work. It also houses a museum, an open air theatre and several structures where baithaks take place regularly.

The Bhiksha Vrutti

Guruji has dedicated a lifetime of effort in studying, understanding and supporting the role of the genealogists and community historians of the castes and tribes of Adilabad. He maintains a live museum where the story tellers and bards store their scroll paintings and use them when they need them. These communities are numerous in this region, as each caste and tribe, has one such “historian community” linked to them by patronage. He calls this group of communities the Bhiksha Vrutti.

Soundarya Drishti

The core of Indian society for Guruji is design. He says that the design of all material things was such that it evoked a certain quality in the mind of the user. The beauty and simple creativity that we see in everyday things in a village is not incidental. It is the same way in which every aspect of its, economy, (artha vyavastha) and its social relationships (saamaajikta) were designed. The creative eye or soundarya drishti is still latent in this society and is waiting to be harnessed, says Guruji.

The modern Indian society lives on the fringe of such a grand social ecology of life and yet is oblivious to its own civilizational link to it.

In his lighter moments Guruji remarks that if we perhaps present of some aspects of this traditional society as a projected model for a sustainable future, instead of a legacy from a disappearing and what we consider as a “backward” past, it would perhaps have several more takers.

The quiet and meditative atmosphere of Kala Ashram conceals the fervent intellectual and social churning that happens within it. Silently, at its own pace, the Ashram gathers people and practices, technologies and tools in its nurturing fold and waits for the storm to blow over. When India becomes ready for a new perspective on society building, Kala Ashram will still be waiting to share with us, its seeds of wisdom.